Do you have a "Director of First Impressions"?
Artie Dolt knows that when we think deliberately about how people are treated, they'll want to return.
I was honored, recently, to be invited to participate on a Zoom meeting with an out-of-state barbershop chorus. They had contacted me, after reading a story that I had posted on Facebook, wanting to know how in the world our Friends In Harmony Chorus, here in San Antonio, had gone from 19 singers at our first gathering, to over 100 active participants in just the first year… especially with the vast majority being first-time Barbershoppers. Obviously, there are a ton of reasons, but the folks at the meeting were especially intrigued when I shared this story with them…
When we first got together, long before we even thought about a structured organization, I assigned one of our brand new members, Roger Winkelmann, to a position that I had envisioned and created. Now, Roger’s first exposure to barbershop harmony was when I taught three other male members of our church choir the four parts to Joe Liles’ magnificent arrangement of “Beautiful Savior.” The first time that we performed it during a Sunday service, the congregation was awed… and Roger was hooked!
Roger is a very personable and friendly sort of chap. After explaining the severity and consequences of his new position to him, I gave Roger a title. I dubbed him our “Director of First Impressions!” And my friends, Roger was exemplary at fulfilling his task. When a new face appeared at the door, Roger was quick to introduce himself, he prepared a guest name badge, he invited the guest to put all of his contact information in our guest book, he gave the fellow a guest music book with all of our repertoire, and then proceeded to introduce the guest to a number of our other warm and welcoming members.Then, as has become our custom, we always sit the guest on a chair in front of, and facing, the chorus. We sing a song or two for him so that he gets the full impact of the huge thrilling sound that we, as a full chorus, are able to create. I then explain to our guest that we are not a “spectator sport,” we are a participation activity… he is then placed in the appropriate section for his comfortable voice rangeRoutinely, the first song that we sing, after the guest is seated, is a little four-part, four-song, piece that I taught the chorus by rote. We re-teach it by individual part so that the guest gets to learn it quickly. Once we’ve sung it through in its entirety, I stop and address the guest, BY NAME, and congratulate him for his outstanding ability to learn a whole song within his first fifteen minutes as a barbershopper!!!
I don’t have any data, nor any records, that reflect how many new singers have joined the Friends In Harmony through this process, but I was told a bit ago that, since we first formed in September of 2013, 217 individuals from our group have, at one time or another, joined an international organization of barbershop harmony enthusiasts. Regrettably, some have passed on, others have moved away, while some others have re-prioritized their available time. We have still managed, however, to consistently maintain an active chorus of at least 125 voices. Apparently, this system works!!!